Obamacare was supposed to fix the emergency room (ER) crisis in America. But instead of fixing it, Obamacare only made the problem worse–a lot worse.
Before the Affordable Care Act went into effect, too many patients visited the ER for routine, non-emergency issues–like a cough, the sniffles, or a sore throat. They basically used and abused the ER as a “walk-in” outpatient clinic. These inappropriate visits wasted the time and resources of critical personnel. They also tied-up highly specialized facilities so that truly serious emergency cases didn’t receive immediate attention.
Obamacare proponents claimed these patients only used ERs as outpatient clinics because they didn’t have health insurance and access to regular healthcare. And Obamacare was supposed to fix the problem. They claimed patients wouldn’t keep using the ER for everyday aches and pains if we forced everyone to acquire healthcare.
But now, even with Obamacare in full effect, many people still can’t be bothered to use regular outpatient clinics for everyday health issues. They still visit the ER for coughs and sniffles.
In fact, according to a new survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians, more people than ever are flooding the Emergency Rooms, causing risk to everyone and anyone who really needs emergency care.
For this survey, the American College of Emergency Physicians contacted 24,427 member physicians to complete a survey. (Interestingly, just 9 percent of the members responded. Perhaps the other 91 percent were just too busy filling out more government paperwork!)
Of those who responded, most noticed an unexpected increase in the volume of patients since January 1, 2014, when the Affordable Care Act went into effect. In fact, 75 percent of emergency physicians reported an increase in the number of patients. And 28 percent reported seeing sudden, significant jumps in the volume of patients.
Most physicians said the availability of urgent care centers, retail clinics, and telephone triage lines has not helped ease the real burden. In an interview, Michael Gerardi, M.D., President of the American College of Emergency Physicians said, “The reliance on emergency care remains stronger than ever…it’s the only place that’s open 24/7, and we never turn anyone away.”
The volume of Medicare and Medicaid patients is up too…
In fact, 56 percent of ER physicians said the volume of Medicaid patients is up. Indeed, Obamacare forced many already-overburdened states to expand this program as their only ready response to the law’s exacting and often nonsensical demands. And 70 percent of doctors said they’re afraid their own ER isn’t properly prepared for this sudden increase in patient demand.
On the other hand, the Obama administration punished states who didn’t expand Medicaid. It refused to return tax money to the taxpayers in those states for healthcare. This heavy-handed federal penalty resulted in the loss of healthcare resources and the closure of healthcare facilities in those states.
Dr. Gerardi expressed concerns about the closure of hospitals and emergency departments in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. He said, “Hospitals received less Medicare funding for charity care when the [Affordable Care Act] took effect, because more people were supposed to have health insurance coverage. But in states that didn’t expand Medicaid, hospitals are hurting. For example, the closure of a hospital in Baton Rouge resulted in a crisis for another hospital that inherited all the patients, many of whom are uninsured, and now this hospital may close as well.”
It seems the law of unintended consequences slaps good citizens in the face every time the government interferes. (Or, perhaps, these closures were the law’s intended consequences after all.)
More than 40 percent of the doctors polled said they expect emergency room visits to continue to increase. And 65 percent expect reimbursement for ER care to decrease if the federal government limits subsidies for health insurance coverage in their states.
Oh, and one more thing increased for ER doctors since Obamacare went into effect: paperwork.
In fact, 64 percent of doctors said they spend more time on paperwork and organizing patient care after an ER visit since January 1, 2014.
These highly skilled physicians receive training to work effectively in a high-stress urgent-care environment. But the increasing paperwork and increasing demands from non-emergency patients add to the stress.
No wonder 34 percent of them now consider leaving the profession.
We are already facing a crisis in ER care because of overburdens. If we begin to lose these irreplaceable physicians, due to more problems with Obamacare, it will create a real emergency for everyone.
- “Emergency Physicians Busier Than Ever Since ACA, Poll Shows,” Medscape (www.medscape.com) 5/4/2015